C psychological relationship drama
Written and directed by Abel Ferrara

Abel Ferrara’s latest film doesn’t quite do what it should (whatever that is). It’s not horrible. It succeeds in making you worry about the confused protagonist. Several individual scenes work reasonably well, but the main character’s slide into insanity (if that’s what it is) feels forced.

Willem Dafoe plays the title character, an American screenwriter living in Rome with his wife and very young daughter. Early on, Tommaso and his wife Nikki (Cristina Chiriac) do some very hot foreplay on the hall couch, which is interrupted by their daughter, Deedee (Anna Ferrara – I assume she’s related to the director). The lack of sex, at least inside this marriage, is going to be a major theme of the film.

Tommaso is at least twice as old as Nikki, but he’s exceptionally healthy. His yoga workout would put most people in a hospital. Dafoe, now into his sixties, does at least some of it himself.

This is a multi-lingual family. Nikki is Moldovan. Tommaso, despite his Italian name, is only now learning the native language. Deedee is fluent (well, three-year-old fluent) in all three languages. At home, they mostly speak English.

Tommaso is a reformed alcoholic, which allows Ferrara to provide us with scenes of AA meetings – an easy way to give us a backstory. It’s also a way to preach to the movie audience. Strangely, the AA meetings are all in English. In one of these AA scenes, the other attendees are all attractive women. Perhaps it’s a fantasy. Tommaso has a very active imagination.

Tommaso contains several scenes that could only be coming out of the protagonist’s head. He enters a cellar café and is served by a naked woman. They make out. Tommaso teaches dancing (apparently the screenwriting doesn’t bring in much money), and in one scene an attractive student drives him home, and they make out in the car.

Tommaso takes his daughter to the park in one early scene, and he sees Nikki making out with a much more age-appropriate man. Did it really happen? If not, why would Nikki play around where her husband will likely see her? Maybe she wants him to see what she’s doing. Maybe she’s just stupid (I don’t recall her doing anything smart in the whole picture). Or maybe it was another dream.

As writer/director, Ferrara never allows Nikki to be a fully developed person. We’re never told what she does; maybe she’s a housewife. We really don’t know why she married this much older man (there’s no sign that he’s particularly rich).

Both parents love their daughter head over heals, and that’s not surprising. The little girl is adorable.

Tommaso climaxes in a way that’s surprising only because it’s so clichéd. That culmination is followed by a coda that was probably meant to mean something. Let’s just say that it’s not the first time Willem Dafoe got crucified at the end of the movie.

The film virtually opens Friday, June 5, through the Rafael and the Roxie.